The Old Galatic Republic Era, began over 25,000 years before the events of Star Wars : A New Hope. Around 4,000 years before A New Hope began the first of many wars that continued to affect the events throughout Star Wars. First came Jedi Revan, who won great respect as a leader during the Mandalorian Wars. His time during the war caused him to fall to the Dark side of the force, where he became Darth Revan and eventually caused the forming of what would become The Sith Empire. 300 years later The Sith Empire returned, starting the Great Galatic War. This was a dark time for the Republic and continued until Darth Bane created the Rule of Two.
The Rise of the Empire are the books that take place during the 1,000 80 years before Star Wars : A New Hope. Which means this starts before the events of The Phantom Menace. So not only can we see what happens with Anakin as he falls in love and his descent into the dark side, but what Darth Maul was like before Episode I and what Han Solo was up to before his fateful meeting with Luke Skywalker.